Under EU rules, passengers flying from an EU airport or to an EU airport on an EU-based airline, can claim compensation if a flight is delayed for more than three hours or cancelled – and it's the airline's fault.
Payouts are worth up to €250 (£229) for short-haul flights, up to €400 (£367) for mid-haul flights, and up to €600 (£530) for long-haul flights.
But Ryanair has been refusing to pay compensation to the some 100,000 passengers affected after a series of flights were cancelled or delayed over the summer.
The airline was hit by widespread pilot and cabin crew strikes after staff walked out for 48 hours in a dispute over pay, working conditions and pensions.
But the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says the strikes were not "extraordinary circumstances", which means the airline has to pay out to affected passengers.
I was affected by Ryanair strikes. What does this mean for my claim?
Already made a claim to the Ombudsman? If you've already made a strike-related compensation claims via AviationADR – the Ombudsman for Ryanair complaints, these are on hold until the outcome of the Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) enforcement action.
Already made a claim to Ryanair? If you've already made a claim to Ryanair but you're not happy with the response or you haven't had one within eight weeks, you need to contact the CAA's Passenger Advice and Complaints Team (PACT). This is because Ryanair has told the CAA that it has terminated its agreement with AviationADR
Yet to make a claim? If you haven't made a claim against Ryanair yet, you first need to complain to the airline. An easy way to do this is using free complaints tool Resolver. If you're not happy with the response you get or you haven't had one within eight weeks, you need to contact the CAA's Passenger Advice and Complaints Team (PACT).
In order to force Ryanair to pay-up, the CAA has today launched legal action against the low-cost airline.
The watchdog says thousands of passengers are entitled to some kind of compensation under EU law.
The CAA said: "The UK Civil Aviation Authority has today started enforcement action against Ryanair, following the airline's decision that financial compensation is not payable under European Commission Regulation 261/2004 for flight disruption resulting from industrial action by the airline's staff this summer.
"Ryanair passengers have made claims for compensation directly to the airline, but these have been rejected.
"Passengers have then been able to escalate their complaints to AviationADR, a body approved by the Civil Aviation Authority, to provide alternative dispute resolution for passenger complaints.
"Ryanair has now informed the Civil Aviation Authority that it has terminated its agreement with AviationADR.
"As the Civil Aviation Authority said at the time of the industrial action, in its view, the strikes were not 'extraordinary circumstances' and were not exempt, meaning consumers should be compensated in accordance with Regulation EC261/2004.
"As a result of Ryanair's action, passengers with an existing claim will now have to await the outcome of the Civil Aviation Authority's enforcement action."
Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said: “Customers would have been outraged that Ryanair attempted to shirk its responsibilities by refusing to pay out compensation for cancelling services during the summer – which left hard-working families stranded with holiday plans stalled.
"It is right that the CAA is now taking legal action against Ryanair on the basis that such strikes were not “extraordinary circumstances” and should not be exempt, to ensure that the airline must finally do the right thing by its customers and pay the compensation owed."
A Ryanair spokesperson said: “Courts in Germany, Spain and Italy have already ruled that strikes are an “extraordinary circumstance” and EU261 compensation does not apply.
"We expect the UK CAA and Courts will follow this precedent.”
But Ryanair isn't the only provider to be scrimping on payouts – other holiday firms are also cheating passengers out of millions in delay compensation while paying out to others who were on the same plane.
It was revealed earlier this year that the worst airlines for flight delays are Norwegian and Icelandair.
Here's how to claim compensation if your flight is delayed or cancelled – and your rights if there’s disruption due to bad weather.
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